Bill Gates predicts clean energy 'breakthrough' within 15 years

Bill Gates predicts clean energy 'breakthrough' within 15 years

Bill Gates predicts clean energy 'breakthrough' within 15 years

There will be a breakthrough in clean energy research within the next 15 years that will "save our planet and power our world".

That's according to Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft founder, who discussed the energy challenges currently facing the human race in an annual open letter.

Every year, Gates and his wife Melinda publish a letter detailing their plans for supporting innovation and investment in technologies to tackle climate change, energy poverty and inequality.

In this year's message, the entrepreneur pointed out that access to energy is something people and businesses take for granted in developed economies like the UK and the US, but about 1.3 billion people - nearly a fifth of the global population - live without electricity.

To help those living in the poorest and most deprived parts of the world, Gates said we must find a way of delivering energy that is affordable for all and sustainable - meaning zero carbon dioxide emissions.

Scientists have projected that, to avoid long-term damage to the environment, greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by up to 80 per cent by 2050 and eliminated entirely by the end of the 21st century.

Last year, global carbon emissions were approximately 36 billion tonnes.

One of the big hopes for the future is greater adoption of sustainable energy technologies like solar and wind power, which will enable a move away from fossil fuels like coal.

"It's great that [renewables] are getting cheaper and more people are using them," Gates writes.

"We should use more of them where it makes sense, like in places where it's especially sunny or windy. And by installing special new power lines we could make even more use of solar and wind power.

"But to stop climate change and make energy affordable for everyone, we're also going to need some new inventions."

In short, the world needs "an energy miracle", the Microsoft founder said, although he was keen to stress that he was referring not to something impossible, but to a feat of human ingenuity and innovation comparable to the internet or the polio vaccine.

Gates was so confident in the world's potential to "make a miracle happen" that he offered a bold forecast.

"Within the next 15 years - and especially if young people get involved - I expect the world will discover a clean energy breakthrough that will save our planet and power our world," he predicted.

The billionaire businessman followed up his open letter by speaking to Bloomberg about what he believes is required to achieve this breakthrough.

He said scientists will need to follow a dozen or more different routes to reach a genuinely ground-breaking outcome, with diverse groups of competing researchers operating within each area.

Potential paths to a breakthrough could include carbon capture, nuclear fission, nuclear fusion and solar fuels.


Posted by Julie Tucker

Image courtesy of iStock